Canada Day in a pandemic
Like every year in Canada, the month of July starts with the country’s national holiday on Jul. 1. Canada Day is most often celebrated with family and friends getting together to enjoy fun summer activities and a barbecue. While festivities usually include concerts, live events and fireworks, but due to the pandemic, most were either postponed or cancelled this year.
In Park Extension, it is usually the National Bangladeshi-Canadian Council (NBCC) that organizes celebrations in front of the Parc Metro station. Although they wanted to celebrate in full this year, they were forced to postpone activities to early August because certain COVID-19 measures were still in place.
“The Government of Quebec has procedures and still tough measures in place,” said Monir Hossain, president of the NBCC, after he had submitted an event request for 150 people. “Especially for a small even like ours, the measures were too heavy for us,” he added.
Health regulations stipulated that there would have to be a perimeter fence, dedicated entry and exit points and early guest registration. These requirements seemed too complicated for a small event, so the NBCC decided to reschedule.
This was in addition to many celebrations being cancelled due to the uncovering of multiple mass graves of children at several former residential schools sites across the country.
VacciVan in Park Ex Parks
Throughout 2021, Park Extension saw lagging vaccination rates and slow uptake of immunization. With factors like linguistic barriers and differing socio-economic realities affecting rates, local health authorities had to think outside the box to increase vaccination in the area.
On Jun. 29, the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal launched its VacciVan campaign at Howard Park. The program sent a truck filled with vaccines and medical professionals into the community to set up pop-up vaccination clinics in local parks.
A total of 435 vaccines were administered over the 4 days and contributed to the total proportion of residents with at least 1 dose, then at 58 percent. “We are in the park where the people are with their family,” added Lucie Tremblay, director of nursing and vaccination for CIUSSS West-Central, explaining that this contributed to the accessibility of inoculations.”
“I think that for the people it’s a good opportunity to come here,” said resident Dawood Masih, explaining that other appointments are often 3 to 4 months away and that many people can’t plan that far out. Masih was very pleased with the campaign and felt it could help get more people vaccinated.
Femicide in Park Extension
On July 19, Park Ex resident Rajinder Prabhneed Kaur was murdered in her apartment and became the 14th femicide of 2021 in Quebec. The suspect in the murder was her husband, 30-year-old Navdeep Singh Ghotra, who later fled and was found dead in the Rivière-des-Prairies river north of Montreal later that month.
Police officers were alerted at around 5 PM, discovering the inanimate body of the victim in a pool of blood in her apartment on Birnam, near the corner of Saint-Roch. A child was in the apartment at the time while a second had fled the scene but was found later that evening.
Ghotra reportedly made a video call in the late afternoon, confessing his crime to family members in India and showing them the scene before fleeing. The family in India immediately contacted local police who then notified the SPVM.
The suspect was known to police, who said he had been charged for uttering death threats against his wife last May. He was awaiting trial set for early October. Kaurs’ murder caused widespread indignation across the province, with many demanding that more be done to keep women safe from domestic abuse and violent partners.
Anger at continued closure at Ogilvy crossing
As the summer advanced well into its second half, frustration among residents began to turn to anger and bewilderment as the passage at the Parc Exo station had still not opened. Many took to social media and resorted to picketing the fence to protest its continued closure.
Residents hoped for a temporary solution over the summer months but to their dismay, that was never realized. “The city keeps saying ‘we’re taking care of you, don’t worry, it’ll be done by November,’ but we know there are elections,” said resident and activist Béatrice Calmel, implying that the city was turning the crossing into an electoral issue. “We are once again trapped,” she added.
Although the City eventually installed a gate in the fence, it was later padlocked and nearly never opened. Residents said this was adding insult to injury. “I did something which was really immature,” said resident Daniel Spade, “I got a crowbar and I broke the lock.” Spade was later arrested and charged with vandalism.
Although many people expected the passage to be opened for the duration of the National Bank Open tennis tournament in nearby Jarry Park, the fence remained shut for the remainder of the summer.